Being one of the leading superpowers of the modern world, the United States of America has a firm foothold in the business aviation sector. An industry bursting with cutting edge technology and advanced scientific foresight obviously favors highly developed countries such as the USA. But how exactly did America come to being such a strong leader in business aviation?
Necessity Is the Mother of Invention
To fully explore the reasoning, it is worth going back in time to the roots of the US aviation industry boom of the 1940s. When World War II began in 1939, aviation became an integral instrument in America’s arsenal against the Axis alliance. William Knudsen, who was made Chairman of the Office of Production Management and member of the National Defense Advisory Commission by the Roosevelt administration, went as far as to say that the US “won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible.”
The outcome of the production line was indeed staggering. At the beginning of WWII the US military had around 3,000 planes in operation. Just six years later by the time the War ended in 1945, the US had produced a hundred times that number – 300,000 planes. Man for man, the US easily outproduced their rivals, which massively contributed to the victory of the Allied Powers.
Although these were military planes built to protect the country, the development proved to have long-lasting implications in the aviation industry. Mass aircraft production made the US aviation sector leapfrog from 41st among American industries right to the number one spot. Suddenly, the landscape shifted and aviation was the future. At that point the US was in a position of immense power; one they certainly capitalized on.
Firm Grounds for Further Developments
The Second World War served as a springboard to an ongoing effort by the US to lead the way in military aviation, an accolade maintained to this day. Combining the resolute work ethic exercised during WWII with more modern technology, the US produced the most advanced and expensive fighting machines ever created.
The F-22 Raptor is recognized by many as the world’s finest jet fighter in existence. This $350 million invention was created to combat Russia’s most effective plane. Elsewhere, the B-2 Spirit pushes the boundaries of what we expect from an aircraft. With an exterior more akin to an alien spaceship than anything we’re used to here on Earth, the nuclear explosive bomber is near undetectable even to infrared and electromagnetic signals. Each unit costs a whopping $737 million to produce.
As one would expect, the US was able to expand their dominance from military aviation into different sectors. With everything already in place to create top-end flying machines, various US companies emerged as leaders in other aviation sectors, especially the business jet industry. There are even clear influences from the military history of the US infused into some of the modern designs, adapted to new purposes but maintaining the origins of the fighter jets.
North America’s layout itself also created the need for many business jets. Spanning nearly 10 million km², the 50 states that make up the US require a massive scope of traveling across countries. Consider the time it takes to go from the southernmost parts of the UK to the northern peak to a similar trip in the US and it is clear that traveling by road is often simply not an option. This was, therefore, a catalyst in the increasing development of business aviation in the US – the existing infrastructure simply made the transition much easier than in some other countries.
Still on Top
Today, the US is still a clear market leader in the US business aviation sector. According to the international trade association GAMA, airplane shipments increased over 14% in 2019, to $23.51 billion deliveries bringing in $23.51 billion.
After an uncertain couple of years in 2014, the business jet sector saw signs of stabilization and it kept growing ever since. The overall market share of the North American market in global business aviation is usually around or over 50%, with Europe at a distant second place with around 20%. Business aviation is responsible for bringing in $150 billion to the US economy annually and it has helped create more than an impressive 1.2 million jobs for citizens.
In the past few years, China relaxed their aviation laws in an effort to increase growth in the economy and ahead of their tenth Zhuhai Air Show, a US-based company placed an order for 20 Chinese-built Y-12 aircraft. That showed that, whilst celebrating the beginning of China’s emergence as a serious contender in the aviation sector, simultaneously reinforced just how dominant the US is in the entire industry.
Over the coming years there is the possibility that China may come good on their efforts to challenge the US for their throne but, as it stands, America is comfortable in its dominance of business aviation.